Tax 101: Q&A with a Tax Attorney (Part 1)

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Tax 101: Q&A with a Tax Attorney (Part 1)

Tax 101: Q&A with a Tax Attorney (Part 1)
5 Women Lawyers Who Changed Your Life (And You Might Not Even Know It)
5 Tips for Talking to a Lawyer
Documents + Advice: Together At Last

Tax 101: Q&A with a Tax Attorney (Part 1)

Posted: 09 Mar 2015 09:00 AM PDT

Quick quiz: How well can you explain the tax codes related to your personal return? If you’re unsure, don’t worry, you’re not alone. Though most of us file taxes every year, we still seem to have very little knowledge of tax laws. In fact, a new study reveals that most Americans would fail a tax basics quiz related to personal finance issues.

Here, at Rocket Lawyer, our goal is to demystify the “scary” world of law. So in this two-part series, Christopher Johnson, a Rocket Lawyer OnCall® tax attorney, helps navigate us through all the legal jargon that surrounds tax laws. He also answers the most frequently asked tax questions he gets from clients and sheds light on the most common mistakes that can get you in trouble.

Let’s start with the basics. Where do people commonly make a mistake?
Estimated taxes. Most people understand that they need to be filing a return for their entity but they don’t think about quarterly estimated taxes. Often, people wonder, “How do I calculate it all?” since they’ve been told conflicting information about whether it’s net income or gross income.

What’s another common question you get asked?
“What forms do I need?” I hear a lot of people say, “I didn’t know I had to file this!”

What are the consequences of not doing your taxes correctly?
Usually, it’s a percentage penalty on tax if they underestimate.

What about these people who haven’t done their taxes in 10 to 15 years. What happens then?
You’d have go back and pay taxes, and submit an Offer in Compromise with the IRS because you probably don’t have the money to pay it all at once. Under certain circumstances, you may be able to pay less of the tax liability, or even go on a payment plan.

But what happens if you’re filing bankruptcy?
Typically, if you want to have your taxes discharged, you would need to add three years to the tax due date. This will determine the earliest date you can file for bankruptcy as well as have your taxes discharged. For example, if you file your taxes on April 15th, 2015, you will not able to file for bankruptcy until April 15th, 2018.

Are there any common concerns for local and state taxes?
Be aware of local county or city taxes, like on business licenses. Los Angeles County and other counties charge tax on the value of the assets, similar to a property tax rate. You’ll have to fill out a form and report the value of your business.

Stay tuned for the second part of our series! We’ll explore filings taxes for your business.

Learn more about taxes
Explore our tax legal center
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Get in touch with Christopher Johnson
Rocket Lawyer OnCall® attorney profile
Official website

IRS CIRCULAR 230 DISCLOSURE: To ensure compliance with requirements imposed by the IRS, we inform you that any U.S. tax advice contained in this communication (including any attachments) is not intended or written to be used, and cannot be used, for the purpose of (i) avoiding penalties under the Internal Revenue Code or (ii) promoting, marketing or recommending to another party any transaction or matter addressed herein.

5 Women Lawyers Who Changed Your Life (And You Might Not Even Know It)

Posted: 06 Mar 2015 04:12 PM PST

International Women’s Day is quickly approaching on March 8, so it’s the perfect time to celebrate our nation’s most influential female lawyers.

This list is far from complete, but does include five iconic women, many of whom you’ve probably heard of, who have had a positive impact in our nation. Tell us who we missed in the comments and we’ll add them to the list!

Ruth Bader Ginsburg
Columbia Law School

Notable Career Positions:
United States Supreme Court Justice
Co-founder of the Women’s Rights Project at the ACLU
Founder of the Women’s Rights Law Reporter, the first law journal to focus exclusively on women’s rights

Ginsburg has served as a justice on the United States Supreme Court since 1993 and is known for her pro-women stance on most issues. However, she also has a solid record of championing women’s rights prior to her appointment. One of the most influential cases argued by Ginsburg is Reed v Reed. The case was about a married couple, Sally and Cecil Reed, who got in a conflict over who would be the executor of their son’s estate when he passed away and didn’t leave a will. Both Sally and Cecil Reed filed with the state to be the executor but because of an Idaho law that states “males must be preferred to females” as estate administrators, Cecil was granted administorship. Reed v Reed went all the way to the Supreme Court where the law was found to be unconstitutional. The landmark ruling ended gender discrimination in estate executorship in 1972.

Hillary Rodham Clinton
Yale Law School

Notable Career Positions:
Secretary of State
United States Senate
First Lady of the United States

Whether you agree with her politics or not, Clinton helped redefine the role of the American First Lady. She refused to be cornered into performing the stereotypical feminine traditions and received a great deal of criticism for becoming overly involved in government affairs. During the 1990’s, Clinton helped change political culture in Washington by urging that half of all senior political appointees from President Clinton be women. This not only changed the culture, but influenced policy making in the United States. At the 1995’s 4th World Conference on Women, Clinton iconically declared, “Women’s rights are human rights,” and this was just the beginning of Clinton’s time on the world stage. Since then, she has gone on to serve as a US Senator and Secretary of State, and even pursue presidential ambitions of her own.

Elizabeth Dole
Harvard Law School

Notable Career Positions:
US Secretary of Transportation
US Secretary of Labor
President of the American Red Cross

Do you buckle up when you ride in a car? (You should!) Well, we can thank Dole for that. During her time as the Secretary of Transportation, Dole implemented many of the strictest transportation safety standards the US had ever seen, including requiring new cars to have seat belts and airbags. Dole also received a Humanitarian award from the National Commission Against Drunk Driving for her work to increase the legal drinking age to 21. In addition to all of this, Dole spent eight years as president of the American Red Cross and helped to implement many of the blood testing safety standards we know today.

Sarah Weddington
University of Texas Law School

Notable Career Positions:
General Counsel for USDA
Texas House of Representatives
Youngest person to successfully argue a Supreme Court case and win

Weddington graduated law school in the late 1960’s, a time when the legal profession was almost completely dominated by men. Right out of school, she ended up getting involved with a case that peaked her interest personally, so she chose to work on it for free. At the age of 26, Weddington became the youngest person ever to successfully argue a Supreme Court case and win. That case was Roe v. Wade.

Bella Abzug
Columbia Law School

Notable Career Positions:
US House of Representatives

Abzug is arguably one of the most influential women’s rights activist you’ve never heard of. She graduated law school in the 1940’s and was vocal about her frustrations with how often she was assumed to be the secretary by her male colleagues. Throughout her career, Abzug advocated tirelessly for the rights of everyone, regardless of gender, race, religion, or sexual orientation and became the first person to introduce a gay rights bill to Congress. She established both the National Women’s Political Caucus alongside Betty Friedan and Gloria Steinem as well as the Women’s Environmental Development Organization.

Don’t forget to tell us who you think should be included on this list in the comments!

5 Tips for Talking to a Lawyer

Posted: 24 Oct 2014 05:00 AM PDT

We get it. No one wants to talk to lawyers. But there comes a time in everyone’s life—whether it be good news (Marriage) or bad news (Divorce)—when you’ll need to consult with a lawyer. And when that time comes, there are a few tips you should consider to make the legal process a whole lot easier and less painful for both you and your lawyer.

But wait! You may be thinking, “Isn’t that what I pay my lawyer for?” Not quite. Consider this: Imagine having a toothache (ouch). Naturally, you’d go to your dentist, who would ask a couple of standard questions like, “Where does it hurt?” or “What medications have you been using to reduce the pain?” Now, imagine if you simply said, “I don’t know” to all those questions. It may sound strange but lawyers are like dentists. Or, in fact, like any professionals who try to help you help yourself. They can only do so much without your guidance. It takes teamwork.

Though lawyers, by definition, are well-versed in the landscape of law, you need to provide background information (details, first-hand accounts, documents, etc.) so they can smoothly steer through the long and winding legal road without making anyone nauseous along the way.

So are you ready to talk to your lawyer? Here are five helpful tips to ensure a pleasant experience and (hopefully) a successful outcome.

1. Get organized. Try to create a clear, comprehensive story of your situation. For example, if it’s an event-related incident (e.g. traffic ticket), you should make sure you write down everything that took place, from start to finish, in chronological order. Create a folder of relevant legal documents. Get a contact list of the witnesses on the scene. Just don’t dump an overload of scattered information on your poor lawyer to sort out themselves.

2. Be detailed. Seemingly frivolous details like the weather may, at first, seem dismissible. But in the eyes of the law, every detail matters; every variable has the potential to help your case. And since your lawyer doesn’t follow your every move (we certainly hope not!), it’s your responsibility to be your lawyer’s eyes and ears so they are looking at the whole (and most importantly, accurate) picture. Give specifics (names, dates, and exact incidents) and factual information to produce that crystal clear view.

3. Be honest. Plain and simple: Don’t lie. Remember that you and your lawyer are on the same team. Your lawyer cannot share confidential information with anyone, unless you give them permission to do so. When you start omitting relevant facts or adding fictitious information to your story, it’ll only hurt you in the end. Be prepared to explain everything to your lawyer—the good and the bad. This will help them give you the right advice and guidance to ensure the best possible outcome.

4. Ask to clarify. If you find yourself confused by all the legal jargon you hear, that’s okay. The law can get confusing, and this is not the time to guess at meanings or pretend to understand legalese. Just let your lawyer know, and they should do their best to explain things in layman’s terms. Getting a clarification or two may go a long way toward putting your mind at ease—and help your lawyer do a better job of handling your case. It’s both you and your lawyer’s job to fully comprehend your legal situation.

5. Keep them informed. Things are bound to change. And when they do, it’s imperative to update your lawyer. Each small detail or development can dramatically change your legal situation—for better or for worse. Some legal situations may take a longer time to resolve so it’s best to keep in contact with your lawyer as new relevant updates pop up.

So what’s the biggest takeaway? You don’t have to go through this legal process yourself. We’re right beside you, every step of the way. We have thousands of legal documents and forms to choose from to customize for your particular need. Once you’ve customized your document, you can craft a question for our network of On Call® attorneys. The question will then be attached to the document you just completed—for reference and clarification.

You can ask the lawyer to to review what you’ve done, elaborate on the right next steps, or even to simply alleviate your concerns, like “Is this the right document for my situation?” You’ll get your answer within one business day and before you know it, you’ll be on your way—with a completed legal document and newfound knowledge of how to talk to your lawyer.

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Documents + Advice: Together At Last

Posted: 20 Oct 2014 05:00 AM PDT

Today, your Rocket Lawyer membership just got a whole lot better.

We’re excited to announce the enhanced Ask a Lawyer experience! It’s the perfect union between two of our most popular features: Ask a Lawyer and Documents. We’re thrilled to be the first to offer this—it’s a huge milestone for the world of online legal services. Nowhere else are you able to find a streamlined process that allows you to create a customizable legal document and submit any questions you may have to an attorney along the way.

And the best part? You can do it all on any device, anywhere, any time. Want to order Thai take-out on GrubHub and make your will simultaneously on your iPad while live-tweeting your thoughts on yellow curry and estate planning? No problem!

Want to learn more? Let’s take a closer look at what this new product offers:

Documents customized for your particular legal situation.

We don’t believe that one size fits all. Rocket Lawyer members have access to thousands of legal documents, which can be customized for your specific need.

Feel good about your document after speaking to a real lawyer.

Not sure if you completed your document correctly? No sweat. With our new product, you don’t have to guess anymore. Our network of On Call® attorneys are ready to answer any of your legal questions. This means you don’t have to wonder if you’re using the right document, or if your document is truly legally binding in your state. Just ask an attorney. It’s that simple.

Still not convinced? Start your free trial today and see how much time and money you can save.

Already an existing member? Great! You’re able to take advantage of our new product by asking questions about any document – newly created or already in your account.

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